Author Archive

Obenshain Releases Statement on RTD Bail Report

May 16, 2022

New Report Shows Democrats’ 2021 Bail Law Eroding Public Safety

HARRISONBURG – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-ROCKINGHAM) released the following statement:

The report out today from the Richmond Times-Dispatch regarding violent criminals being released with little to no bond is deeply disturbing. Senate Democrats in 2021 pursued liberal so-called criminal justice priorities with such fervor that they ignored clear warnings that Virginians would suffer the consequences.

When we warned Democrats, who unanimously supported the measure, that this would be the result, they demurred. Now they say the judges must be wrong. That, however, is of little comfort to victims of rapes, robberies and other violent crimes whose attackers are being released immediately after arrest.

The RTD reports that in Chesterfield County, 48 people charged with assaulting a family member were released without having to post bond in the past 60 days. Additionally, criminals charged with assaulting police officers and malicious wounding have been released within a span of two months in Chesterfield County.

These are a result of the 2021 Democrat law that removed all presumptions against granting bail to criminal defendants, irrespective of the seriousness of their crime. Republicans sounded the alarm then and I opposed this bill when it was before us last year.

I hope that the Democrats in the Senate who pushed for this bill will think twice about opposing efforts to reinstate presumptions against bail for serious offenses after seeing these consequences. We warned against this sweeping approach, but Democrats insisted. Now it’s time to fix this horrible mistake and refocus on protecting the safety of our neighborhoods and Virginia families,” Obenshain said.

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Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Senate of Virginia.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).

Virginia school board bars team from wearing ‘Pray for Peace’ shirts for Ukraine: ‘Defies all logic’

April 12, 2022

Montgomery County school board says lacrosse team’s shirts too ‘political’ and ‘religious’

By Bailee Hill | Fox News

Virginia student-athletes are pushing back after their school board prohibited them from wearing “Pray for Peace” shirts in support of Ukraine, deeming the shirts too “political” and “religious.”

Blacksburg High School Lacrosse Captain Elise Levison and her mother Clare Levison discussed the backlash from the Montgomery County school board’s decision on “Fox & Friends First” on Tuesday. 

“The team was pretty upset,” Elise told co-host Carley Shimkus. “All we were trying to do is just spread a positive message that was really our only intention, and we’ve actually gotten a lot of support from the school.”

A man rides a motorbike past a house damaged by shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) 

A man rides a motorbike past a house damaged by shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) 

“I’ve had teachers stop me in the hallway and say what we’re doing is the right thing and that they support us, so the community feedback has been really great,” she continued. 

Elise said her lacrosse team wanted to support their coach, who volunteered at orphanages in Ukraine, as Putin’s assault continues to send millions fleeing from their homes in fear for their lives. 

“I just can’t believe that the interim superintendent actually said that peace is political because peace comes from war and war is about people with different views,” Clare said, adding it “defies all logic.”

The lacrosse team proposed changing the shirt to say “Play for Peace,” but that slogan was also rejected, according to Elise. 

“The school has really doubled and even tripled down on their stance, so I hope that this issue continues to get national attention because I think people do need to know what’s taking place in the schools. And this one is just completely beyond the pale,” Clare said. 

The wife, center, of 44-year-old soldier Tereshko Volodymyr, second right, prays and mourns his death before his funeral ceremony, after he died in action, at the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Church in Lviv, western Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The wife, center, of 44-year-old soldier Tereshko Volodymyr, second right, prays and mourns his death before his funeral ceremony, after he died in action, at the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Church in Lviv, western Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The school board chair, Sue Kass, and Interim Superintendent Whitaker released a joint statement on the matter to CBN News. 

“The concerns about the warmups are not related to student speech as the team members did not initiate the discussion or purchase the shirts,” the statement reads. “The role of the School Board is to implement our policies in an unbiased way. Staff-led activism is a topic our Board has been discussing throughout the year, including flags, posters, and clothing that show support for specific groups or issues. It is not permissible for school-issued, staff-sponsored apparel to promote specific causes, groups, or beliefs.”

Bailee Hill is an associate editor with Fox News Digital.

Youngkin signs bill regulating explicit content in schools

April 8, 2022

By SARAH RANKIN | April 8, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A bill that will require Virginia schools to notify parents if their children are assigned books or other materials with sexually explicit content was among more than 100 measures Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed into law this week, his office said Friday.

Youngkin held up the measure as part of an effort to fulfill a campaign pledge to empower parents’ involvement in their children’s education.

In a statement, he said he was pleased to sign it into law, “along with many other bipartisan bills that will enhance education, improve public safety, provide tax relief, and make government work better for the people of Virginia.”

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, was one of Youngkin’s legislative priorities. It tasks the Department of Education with developing model policies for parental notification and making them available to school boards by July 31. Each school board must adopt the policies by Jan. 1, 2023, according to the measure, which uses a definition of sexually explicit content that already exists in state law. It also requires that students be given an alternative assignment at a parent’s request.

Democrats who objected to the bill argued that it smacked of censorship and that valuable pieces of literature would be targeted. Supporters emphasized that no books were being banned or censored and that the bill simply allows parents to be notified of explicit materials.

The measure cleared the Democrat-controlled Senate after two moderate Democrats joined with Republicans to advance it. It passed the GOP-controlled House on a party-line vote.

Youngkin faces an action deadline next week for measures passed during this year’s regular session of the General Assembly. Youngkin can sign or veto bills or send them back to lawmakers with proposed amendments. He has vetoed only one so far, according to the online legislative information system — a local policing oversight measure that involved only Arlington County.

Among the other measures the governor signed into law this week:

— A bill extending for at least two years the ability for dining establishments to sell cocktails to go. That flexibility was initially offered as a way to help businesses struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

— A bill permitting hunting on public land on Sundays, as long as it takes place more than 200 yards (180 meters) from a place of worship.

— A series of animal welfare bills proposed in the wake of violations uncovered at a Cumberland County dog-breeding facility.

Commentary: Gov. Youngkin’s tax plan can lift us out of recession

March 30, 2022
  • Chris Braunlich
  • Mar 28, 2022

“I urge you again to contact your Senators and Congressmen. … Tell them you believe this is an unequaled opportunity to help return America to prosperity and make government again the servant of the people.”

—Ronald Reagan

July 27, 1981

Richmond, like Washington, has always been a place where an “insider’s game” is played—not in a pejorative sense, but simply as the way things are done.

Relationships are paramount, people speak in the arcane language of lawmaking, agendas are confusing for outsiders, and the activities of a subcommittee for an obscure commission are followed in detail because those in the know understand that what happens there will end up as a new regulation.

But in July 1981, President Ronald Reagan did something no president had done since Franklin Roosevelt: He reached beyond the insiders and appealed directly to the public, asking for their help in securing approval of his tax rate cut of 25 percent over three years. Reagan’s ploy worked. When passed, the tax cuts led to an economic recovery lasting 92 months without a recession.

Now comes Gov. Glenn Youngkin, launching a six-figure television campaign with a commercial laying out his own tax proposals and implicitly, if not explicitly, asking Virginians to weigh in.

This is not “the Virginia Way” of decision-making unhindered by the voices of voters and taxpayers, and Senate Finance Committee Chair Janet Howell immediately declared the ad “counterproductive.”

Counterproductivity, however, is in the eye of the beholder. So, too, is fairness. Despite holding only a one-vote majority in the Senate, Sen. Howell sits astride a committee with 12 Democrats and five Republicans. Because of that one vote majority, Senate Democrats are empowered to “stack the deck” and stack it they have, with one committee holding a four to one majority for the Left.

If the Youngkin tax agenda fails, it will be on purely political grounds. National Democrats may deride the independence of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin declaring him “one lone man obstructing the President’s agenda” but in Virginia one senator empowers the obstruction of … well, everything. Joe Manchin is a piker.

Having lurched so far and so quickly to port during the preceding two years that the electorate rejected their state-wide and House of Delegate candidates in 2021, the Left holds only the Senate … and that most likely because the body was not up for reelection. Describing themselves as a “brick wall,” they’ve not been hesitant about exercising their right to obstruct nearly everything.

Which is why Youngkin’s public focus on the tax issue is so dangerous for their future. With voters facing not only the worst inflation in 40 years but also higher taxes resulting from recent tax law changes, the public is unlikely to be sympathetic to the Senate Democrats’ argument that they have to block tax reductions in order to meet “unfunded needs”—especially when Virginia sits on a surplus of more than $16 billion, and even the House/Youngkin proposal would leave most of it untouched.

Doubling the standard deduction alone means that every working Fredericksburg area couple would see an immediate and permanent tax reduction of $517. Add to it the short-term boost of a gasoline tax break and elimination of the grocery tax and we’re not talking “billions.” For Fredericksburg families, we’re talking “real money.”

The opponents’ case is weak, made weaker by a Biden-fueled inflation and their own past tax policies. A contest in which citizens decide whether government or they, themselves, know better what should be done with their earnings, is usually no contest at all.

But for Gov.Youngkin, there are risks as well. Once the gauntlet is thrown, it will be harder to turn back, and success depends on Virginians responding. Will they? Those favoring the economic stimulation coming with lower taxes should identify their elected officials now, and let them know where they stand.

In so many ways, it is a time for choosing.

Chris Braunlich is president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, a state based think tank devoted to building prosperity by lowering economic and regulatory barriers for all Virginians. He may be reached at [email protected].

Virginia Tech’s Reka Gyorgy criticizes NCAA over transgender swimmer

March 25, 2022

Virginia Tech women’s swimming standout Reka Gyorgy, who competed in the NCAA championships event that was won by a transgender swimmer last week, has written a letter of complaint to the NCAA.

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of Penn gained national attention when she won the 500-yard freestyle title Thursday at the NCAA Division I women’s swimming and diving championships in Atlanta.

Gyorgy, a Hungary native who has twice earned first-team All-America honors during her Tech career, wrote in her letter that she wanted to “address something that is a problem in our sport right now and hurting athletes.”

“I respect and fully stand with Lia Thomas,” Gyorgy wrote. “I am convinced that she is no different than me or any other D-I swimmer who has woken up at 5 a.m. her entire life for morning practice. She has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for competition. She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right.

“On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.”

Gyorgy posted her letter on her private Instagram account. Websites such as swimmingworldmagazine.com and swimswam.com reprinted the entire letter Sunday, prompting some news websites to pick up the story of the letter.

Gyorgy, a fifth-year senior in terms of college swimming and a graduate student academically, finished 17th overall in the 500 freestyle prelims Thursday with a time of 4 minutes, 41.06 seconds.

The top eight swimmers in the prelims advanced to Thursday night’s “A” final, meaning they got to race again for the NCAA title through eighth place and earned first-team All-America honors.

The swimmers who were ninth through 16th overall in the prelims moved on to the “B” final, meaning they got to race again for ninth through 16th place and earned All-America honorable mention.

So by finishing 17th in the prelims, Gyorgy finished one spot short of making the “B” final.

“This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated,” she wrote. “It feels like that final spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female swimmer compete.

“I know you could say I had the opportunity to swim faster and make the top 16, but this situation makes it a bit different and I can’t help but be angry or sad. It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool. One spot was taken away from the girl who got ninth in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final, preventing her from being an All-American.

“Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females throughout the meet.”

Gyorgy took 12th in that event at the NCAAs last year, earning All-America honorable mention.

After finishing first in the prelims last Thursday, Thomas finished first again in the “A” final to win the title with a time of 4:33.24. Emma Weyant of the University of Virginia was second with at time of 4:34.99.

“Thursday was not a specific athlete’s fault. It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting their athletes,” Gyorgy wrote. “I ask that the NCAA takes time to think about all the other biological women in swimming, try to think how they would feel if they would be in our shoes. Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming.”

The NCAA did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Tech coach Sergio Lopez Miro said in a text message that Gyorgy sent her letter to the NCAA on Saturday, which was the final day of the four-day NCAA championships.

“I am writing this letter right now in hopes that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future,” Gyorgy wrote. “It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.”

Gyorgy competed for Hungary in the 2016 Olympics.

She won the ACC title in the 400-yard individual medley as a Tech freshman in 2017. She finished eighth in that event at the NCAAs that year, earning All-America honors. Gyorgy won the ACC crown in the 400 individual medley again as a sophomore in 2018. In 2019, she was 12th in the 400 individual medley at the NCAAs.

She took an Olympic redshirt year in the 2019-20 season to train for the 2020 Olympics, which did not wind up being held that year.

At last year’s NCAAs, she earned All-America honors with an eighth-place finish in the 400 individual medley.

In addition to her 17th-place finish in the 500 freestyle at last week’s NCAAs, Gyorgy was 10th in the 400 individual medley. She was also part of a 14th-place relay team, a 16th-place relay team and a 17th-place relay team.

Thomas not only won the 500 freestyle last week but also earned All-America honors in two other events, finishing fifth in the 200 freestyle and eighth in the 100 freestyle.

Thomas once competed as a man for Penn before beginning her transition in 2019 by starting hormone replacement therapy.

The NCAA’s approved testosterone threshold for those competing in the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships was higher than the maximum set this year by USA Swimming, which is the sport’s national governing body. The NCAA has not yet adopted the new USA Swimming policy.

Former Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar told Associated Press sports columnist Paul Newberry on Friday that Thomas’ biological advantage “has not been mitigated.”

“She didn’t go from being 500th as a male to 500th as a female,” Hogshead-Makar told Newberry. “She went from not being able to even qualify for the NCAAs as a male to being a national champion as a female. That’s not fair.”

But Laurel Powell of the Human Rights Campaign shared a different viewpoint with Newberry.

“There have been instances of trans people playing sports for a long time,” Powell, a transgender woman, told Newberry. “None of them ever became champions, because champions are rare. You have to be very, very good at what you do to win a championship. I don’t think a trans person being successful is anything other than a reason to celebrate.”

Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship.

“The NCAA knew what was coming this past week,” Gyorgy wrote. “They knew opinions and minds will be divided and chose to do nothing.”

Reka Gyorgy’s letter

Dear NCAA,

I would like to address this past week’s events and express my thoughts. First, I would like to remind everyone that I am a human being and that as a human being I experience feelings and emotions.

My name is Reka Gyorgy from Hungary. I am a 2016 Rio Olympian, represented Virignia Tech for the past 5 years, a 2 time ACC Champion, 2 time All-American and 3 time Honorable Mention All-American.

With all due respect, I would like to address something that is a problem in our sport right now and hurting athletes, especially female swimmers. Everyone has heard and known about transgender [athlete], Lia Thomas, and her case including all the issues and concerns that her situation brought into our sport. I’d like to point out that I respect and fully stand with Lia Thomas; I am convinced that she is no different than me or any other D1 swimmer who has woken up at 5 a.m. her enteire life for morning practice. She has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for a competition. She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right. On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.

I’m writing this letter right now in hopes that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future. It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.

I swam the 500 free at NCAA’s on March 17th, 2022, where I got 17th, which means I didn’t make it back to the finals and was first alternate. I’m a 5th year senior, I have been top 16 and top 8 before and I know how much of a privilege it is to make finals at a meet this big. This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated. It feels like that final spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete. I know you could say I had the opportunity to swim faster and make the top 16, but this situation makes it a big different and I can’t help but be angry or sad. It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool. One spot was take away from the girl who got 9th in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final preventing her from being an All-American. Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females through the meet.

The NCAA knew what was coming this past week. They knew opinions and minds will be divided and chose to do nothing. This week has been more about reporters, media and division in our sport than things like two women going under 21 seconds in the 50 freestyle, 3 women going under 50 seconds in the 100 butterfly and the first women IN HISTORY to go under 48 seconds in the 100 backstroke. Thursday was not a specific athlete’s fault. It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting their athletes. I ask that the NCAA takes time to think about all the other biological woman in swimming, try to think how they would feel if they would be in our shoes. Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming.

Thank you for reading,

Reka Gyorgy, Virginia Tech swimmer

More Republicans than Democrats would stay and fight if what happened in Ukraine occurred in US: poll

March 23, 2022

Overall, a majority of Americans would not flee if they were in the position Ukrainians are in now

By David Aaro | Fox News

If Americans were in the same position as Ukrainians right now, more Republicans than Democrats would stay and fight, according to a poll released Monday. 

Of the Republicans surveyed in the Quinnipiac University Poll, 68% said they would stay and fight compared to 40% of Democrats. Among Democrats, 52% said they would flee the country, compared to 25% of Republicans. 

While the hypothetical question was polarizing between parties, the majority of Americans (55%) would still stay and fight if they were in the same position as the Ukrainians are now. Only 38% of those surveyed said they would leave the country. 

People protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a rally outside of the White House, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

People protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a rally outside of the White House, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“When confronted with a terrible hypothetical that would put them in the shoes of the Ukrainians, Americans say they would stand and fight rather than seek safety in another country,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.

According to the poll, 66% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats said they supported accepting Ukrainian refugees into the U.S.

At least 1.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian offensive nearly two weeks ago, according to data from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. 

A Ukrainian volunteer Oleksandr Osetynskyi, 44 holds a Ukrainian flag and directs refugees after fleeing from Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

A Ukrainian volunteer Oleksandr Osetynskyi, 44 holds a Ukrainian flag and directs refugees after fleeing from Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

According to the poll, 60% of Americans also believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is mentally unstable and willing to use nuclear weapons against NATO countries.

When asked if Putin’s actions against Ukraine were comparable to Adolph Hitler’s actions against Austria and Czechoslovakia before the outbreak of World War II, half of Americans surveyed agreed. 

If Putin decides to go beyond Ukraine and attack a NATO country, 79% approved a U.S. military response, including 82% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. 

According to the poll, 83% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats don’t believe the Russian people have a say in what Putin and his government choose to do. Of those surveyed, 74% also feel that the Russian people don’t have a full understanding of what is happening in Ukraine.

“Russians are largely in the dark about and unable to halt the destruction being wrought by Putin, say Americans who see the Russian leader as mentally unstable. And half of Americans liken Putin to modern history’s darkest villain, Adolf Hitler,” added Malloy. 

Nearly half of Americans (49%) also say the attack on Ukraine has contributed to them feeling anxious, according to the poll. 

A woman feeds her daughter after fleeing Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

A woman feeds her daughter after fleeing Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

When asked how long they expect the war in Ukraine to last, 19% of those surveyed believe it will be over in weeks, 44% feel it will end in months, and 23% believe it will last years. 

The Quinnipiac University Poll surveyed 1,374 U.S. adults nationwide from March 4-6, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Obenshain Releases Statement on Failure of Senate to Confirm Parole Board Appointments

March 10, 2022

RICHMOND, VA – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) released the following statement following the failure of Senate Joint Resolution 169:

“Today, Senate Democrats voted to kill SJ 169 which would have confirmed 4 out of 5 of Governor Youngkin’s appointments to the Parole Board. The Privileges and Elections Committee reported the bill on March 1 which typically would have been followed by two consecutive days of voting to pass the resolution, resulting in these nominees being confirmed. However, Senate Democrats delayed the vote until today (the penultimate day of Session) presumably with an intention all along of voting down Youngkin’s nominees but a motive to wait as long as possible so as to limit retribution from the chamber down the hall.”

Obenshain continued, “I call it like I see it…this decision is cutting off the nose to spite the face. By torpedoing this resolution, they are ensuring that no paroles are granted until replacements are seated on the Parole Board. Filing a resolution with the intention of killing it is the height of cynicism. It certainly is not consistent with the manner in which the Senate prides itself in conducting its business.”

“I find it puzzling,” said Obenshain, “that this demonstration represents an attempt by the Senate Democrats to double down on Governor Northam’s scandalized Parole Board. Let’s not forget the multiple reports of knowing or reckless violations of the law allegedly committed by members of Northam’s Parole Board. In particular, the allegations that Chair Adrienne Bennett violated the state constitution by not remaining impartial in the Martin case and requesting an examiner to falsify a report.” 

Last year, credible accusations were made detailing violations of Northam’s Parole Board including:

  • Releasing parolees without notifying victims as required by law
  • Releasing parolees without notifying Commonwealth’s Attorneys as required by law
  • Efforts by Parole Board to cover up actions of former Chair Adrienne Bennett who abused her power as Chair
  • Violating an executive order requiring all executive agencies to cooperate with a state inspector general investigation

Obenshain concluded, “Despite the Inspector General refusing to investigate further complaints against Northam’s Parole Board, I’m grateful that we have an Attorney General who takes the allegations of misconduct seriously and urges further investigation and, if proper, prosecution against those responsible for these violations. I just wish Democrats in the Senate would stop playing with the future and career of these qualified nominees which will only serve to hinder the rights of those who deserve to be evaluated for parole eligibility.”

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He serves on the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur or Connor Smith

PHONE: (540) 437-1451 or (804) 698-7526

EMAIL:  [email protected] or [email protected] 

General Assembly Session winds down

March 4, 2022

Friends,

These last two weeks have been packed with positive updates at the General Assembly. 

February 15 was what we referred to as “Crossover,” when the House and Senate completed work on all bills originating in each respective chamber. The Senate is now acting on House bills and the House is acting on Senate bills. In these last few weeks, we will begin bill conferences where differences are hammered out in bills that have passed both chambers.

Seven of my bills passed the Senate so those are now making their way through the House. 

We had a great victory for the Commonwealth when Governor Youngkin signed into law the bill requiring school districts across Virginia to adjust their policies to remove any requirements for students to wear masks. That law was amended to add what is called an “emergency clause” and it became effective on Tuesday, March 1.

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), in a show of refreshing bipartisanship, worked together to get the bill passed in the Senate and the House so that Governor Youngkin could put his signature on it to make it law. In a related action, the Senate unanimously adopted a measure to repeal Governor Northam’s mask mandate for business and workplaces – including schools – thus allowing teachers and other school employees to join their students in making their own masking decisions.

The other notable news last week was regarding the state budget. The House and Senate unveiled their respective versions of the 2022-2024 Biennial Budget, initiating a process that will last through the end of session – and beyond.

The big story this year – and the major difference between the House and Senate budgets – is the amount of tax relief being offered in them.  As you might expect, the Republican-majority House’s plan includes virtually all of the tax relief Governor Youngkin proposed when he was campaigning.  The Democrat-majority Senate’s plan offers a smaller subset of that relief. Consequently, I prefer the House plan that returns more money to the taxpayers and funds key priorities, highlighted below…

  • $5.3 billion in tax relief
  • $2 billion loan fund to repair and replace crumbling schools
  • $51.6 million to hire resource officers in every school
  • $150 million for lab schools to increase school choice
  • $101 million to improve care at our nursing homes for seniors and $251 million to boost Medicaid provider compensation

The philosophical difference between a Senate controlled by Northern Virginia Democrats and a House of Delegates led by Speaker Todd Gilbert were brought into focus by many of the votes that took place on Monday of this week. On Monday, many bills that passed the House of Delegates made it to the Senate only to be cut down in either the Judiciary Committee or the Commerce and Labor Committee. Here’s a sampling:

  • Delegate Tony Wilt’s HB 827 which would have repealed the authority for local governments to regulate firearms
  • Delegate Chris Runion’s HB 1000 which would have added an element of fairness to the law-enforcement civilian oversight boards that were a creation of the “Defund the Police” crowd during the last General Assembly Session
  • Delegate Marie March’s HB 509 which would have repealed the red flag law passed last year
  • Delegate Nick Freitas’ HB 118 which would have repealed the Virginia Clean Economy Act – Virginia’s version of the Green New Deal
  • Delegate Dave LaRock’s HB 790 which would have been a step in the right direction to repealing legislation allowing collective bargaining for public employees

These past few weeks my office and I had the opportunity to meet with a number of visitors, including representatives of Americans for Prosperity, the Virginia Association of Realtors, and the Greater Piedmont Realtors. I also met with the General District Court Clerks in my district.

It was also Hokie Day at the General Assembly.  I met with Virginia Tech Corps Commander Major General Fullhart to get an update on the Corps of Cadets.  Coach Pry was in the house and we presented a commending resolution for VT’s 150th Anniversary on the Senate Chamber floor. Go Hokies!

And finally, it was my pleasure to chat with students from Rappahannock Middle School in Rappahannock County.

We only have a little more than a week left in Session…it is amazing every year how time flies. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected] or come by my office in the Pocohontas building, 5th Floor, Room 502E.

Best,

Mark Obenshain

Obenshain Statement on Passage of Elder Abuse Prevention Bill

February 25, 2022

RICHMOND – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) released the following statement following the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 124.

“I’m happy to report that my SB 124 passed the House of Delegates unanimously yesterday afternoon and is headed to Governor Youngkin’s desk for his signature. It’s a travesty that financial abuse of our elderly is more and more prevalent every year. Protecting this vulnerable population has long been a priority of mine and this bill is one more step in holding bad actors accountable for financially exploiting an incapacitated adult.”

SB 124 creates a new criminal offense for people who misuse a power of attorney to exploit the person who they were supposed to be helping and protecting.  When someone gives a power of attorney to another, he or she is entrusting that person with a position of trust and great responsibility. The opportunity for abuse is significant and when that happens, there should be an additional charge for the breach of trust, above and beyond that which applies to simple theft.

The federal government estimates that the costs of financial fraud against seniors exceed $2 billion annually. According to a recent elder needs survey, nearly one in five Americans aged 65 and older have been victims of elder financial abuse. The survey claims that over $36 billion is lost each year to financial exploitation, criminal fraud and caregiver abuse. 90 percent of perpetrators of fraud are known to their victims.

The closer the tie between perpetrator and victim, the greater the damage. A detailed study of elder financial abuse in Utah found that the amount stolen by people who knew their victim averaged $116,000 — nearly triple the haul taken by strangers. Criminals within the family got even more: $148,000. And the thieves who stole the most money — $262,000, on average — were the victims’ children.

Obenshain concluded, “Facts matter and the reality is that this combination of vulnerability and financial means puts elders in enhanced danger of exploitation. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the House of Delegates and the Senate for their support of this bill. I look forward to this becoming Virginia law so that we can continue to tamp down on elder abuse in our society.”

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He serves on the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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Week 4 Session Update

February 10, 2022

Friends,

We are in our fourth week of the 2022 Session and committees in the Senate and House have had full dockets with robust debates on numerous bills daily.  Believe it or not, we are only about a week from the mid-point of Session, known as Crossover.  

Most of the bills that I have patroned this year have been heard in committee, some favorably and some unfavorably. On Thursday, I presented one of my top priorities this year: an expansion to our charter schools laws in the Commonwealth. I want to thank Education Secretary Amy Guidera for testifying in support of my bill.

It’s unfortunate that my colleagues were not amenable to my bill. A few weeks ago, I described the work I was doing with Governor Youngkin to give more flexibility to schools and teachers and families. Last week, the Senate Education and Health Committee voted 8-7 to defeat the bill. One Democrat Senator, Lynwood Lewis, broke ranks and supported the bill. If you would like to read my statement about the bill’s failure to pass, please click here.

I also carried a bill to repeal the pro-union legislation allowing the government to close bids to all but union shops and repealing last year’s bill allowing unionizing or collective bargaining for public employees. With a Commerce and Labor Committee stacked with twelve Democrats and three Republicans it was no surprise that the bill failed. This was another bill with which I was working with Governor Youngkin to ensure that employees are not forced to join unions and contractors are not forced to pay inflated wage rates in public contracts. The primary effect of last year’s legislation was to allow large out-of-state contractors to compete for and win contracts from Virginia businesses. To read the bill, click here

SB 122 (click here to read it) is a bill about which I care deeply. This is known as Caleb’s Law and would have created an involuntary manslaughter (felony) charge for any person who kills the fetus of another accidentally, contrary to the intention of the parties and while engaged in conduct so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.  This bill was brought to me by a Rockingham County woman who survived a horrible automobile accident, caused by a man fleeing police. Tragically, because of the accident, she lost her son with whom she was six months pregnant and would have been named Caleb. Under current law, if Caleb and his mother had both died in the accident, the perpetrator could have been charged with two counts of homicide.  But because the mother lived, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s only option was to charge the perpetrator with two counts of malicious wounding. I believe that the prosecution in cases like this should be able to pursue an involuntary manslaughter charge. What happened to Caleb and her mother is devastating and I hope that this bill will rectify this unjust inconsistency in our law. To read more about this legislation and Caleb’s story please click here.  

Caleb’s mother, Taylor, was brave enough to testify in front of the Committee with a moving account of her experience. If you’d like to listen to her testimony, click the video below.

The bill was reported from the Judiciary Committee and is headed to the Finance Committee for further evaluation.

If you wish to see the full list of the bills I am introducing this year, click here

Recently, we welcomed several groups and individuals to our office – both in person and virtually. Some of our visitors included advocates from the Virginia Farm Bureau, Shenandoah Valley and Rappahannock Electric Cooperatives, Virginia Dental Association, and members of our local school boards. 

We also met constituents who visited on behalf of the Virginia Charitable Gaming Council and my good friends John Shaffer from Luray Caverns and Debbie Donehey, Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors member and owner of The Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill. 

And finally, it was great to catch up with my good friend Dr. John Downey as well as ambitious and driven students from Blue Ridge Community College. 

If you would like to meet with me or my office representatives, please email me at [email protected] or come by our office in the Pocohontas Building, office 502E. 

I’ll have another update next week so stay tuned.  As always, it’s my honor to represent the Shenandoah Valley in the Senate of Virginia.  

Best,

Mark Obenshain